The Department of Energy has a brilliant plan for the 14,000 tons of potentially radioactive scrap metal it will be excavating from taking apart government nuclear sites. They want to sell it for scrap. The pros: Recycling is good, plus also incidentally it could net them $10-40 million a year. The cons: This could mean you end up with radioactive material in your eyeglasses, artificial hips, or belt buckles.
In 2000, the DOE suspended metal recycling from nuclear sites. The department now insists that excavation methods have changed since then, and that the materials are safer. But this story doesn’t wash with Thomas Danjczek, the president of the Steel Manufacturers Association; Daniel Hirsch, lecturer on nuclear policy at the University of California-Santa Cruz; or Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). All recently stepped forward to say, in various ways, “Hey guys, we like recycling as much as the next guy but maybe not of this stuff?” Hirsch and Markey cited health risks like cancer. Danjczek, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, asked, “Why is the government trying to hurt the image of American products?”
Why indeed? We’re not scientists, but we’re not putting a belt buckle made out of radioactive metal anywhere near our … uh … our children.